Dan Tyminski “One More Time Before You Go” — review by John Jobs
Only Love & Legacy Remain: Tony Rice and Dan Tyminski
This is a review of Dan Tyminski’s new EP One More Time Before You Go on North Star Records.
After one listen, I knew it was a certified timeless American classic. An audio masterpiece. But all I could think about was Miles Davis.
Tyminski’s tribute to the genius of Tony Rice tossed ùme back to the late 1950’s and a composition by Miles called “Nardis,” which he wrote in 1958 for the alto sax hurricane Cannonball Adderly, one year before “Kind of Blue” made recorded jazz history.
Miles never recorded “Nardis” himself, and he wasn’t particularly happy with how Adderly interpreted it, even though Adderly’s ragged “Nardis” was the blueprint for what became jazz fusion.
But the piece took on a life of its own because Bill Evans, who played on Adderly’s recording and on “Kind of Blue,” staked his career on “Nardis” after he left Davis’s band, playing it at every gig his trio had for years and recording it a dozen times.
Evans said “Miles came up with this tune, and it was kind of a new type of sound to contend with… a very modal sound. And I picked up on it, but nobody else did.”
Well, that’s not true. Tony Rice picked up on it. And when the Tony Rice Unit released “Nardis” on their groundbreaking album “Mar West” in 1980, with Sam Bush, Mike Marshall, Todd Philips, and Richard Greene, bluegrass was no longer about hay bales and moonshine, and jazz had to acknowledge that bluegrass was its twin brother.
I know bluegrass music was born with Bill Monroe’s success. But the way I see it, if Doc Watson hadn’t come along, bluegrass as a musical genre would have withered on the stalk in the early 1960’s like 100 acres of corn after a three-month drought, forever a novelty from then on.
But Doc Watson did come along, like a gift from God. He and Bill Monroe threw down the gauntlet in 1963 with a live recording of The Hill Billies 1926 gem “East Tennessee Blues,” and the flatpick guitar instantly achieved Americana immortality.
Tony Rice was 12 years old when that recording was released, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it spurred him on to become the most eclectic and influential guitarist in America since Doc and Merle.
In 1981, I knew about Tony Rice because I had a copy of the David Grisman Quintet’s 1977 record and a copy of J.D. Crowe’s incredible 1975 New South record, but I wasn’t collecting Rice’s records. I was too enamored of Weather Report and Bob Marley.
Then, when I started diving into new music in earnest to find inspiration for my work in MOMIX, an experimental, cutting-edge dance group, a friend in New York gave me a copy of “Mar West.”
As much as “Nardis” revealed about what animated Rice’s genius, it was another cut on “Mar West” that really stayed with me: “Whoa Baby, Every Day I Wake Up With the Blues.”
I saw the Tony Rice Unit only once in live performance, at a summer music festival in Nacogdoches, Texas in the late 1980’s. That same summer I worked a number of stage rigging jobs for festivals where Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble were headliners, and it was amazing to me how similar Stevie Ray and Tony Rice were, when you got right down to it.
Whoa baby, I think they wanted the same thing on stage. They both had that unassuming pulling-it-outta-my-back-pocket modesty about their history-making talents. Too bad Tony wasn’t into wearing feathers and playing his guitar behind his back. They would have made quite a pairing.
If you’ve ever watched Tony Rice’s heartbreaking 2013 acceptance speech when he was inducted into the IBMA Hall of Fame, especially his closing admonition to his fellow bluegrass artists about keepin’ it real, you’ll feel the electricity running through Dan Tyminski’s remarkably true tribute, “One More Time Before You Go.”
The record is an EP, with only five cuts to consider. But each cut is weighted with its own unique overlay of relevance to Tony Rice’s life. Because it’s a Dan Tyminski project, the record is as varied, tasteful, and emotional as he is.
In that Hall of Fame acceptance speech, Tony was accepting more than an IBMA honor. He was accepting the fact that he was already half way to the other side. His last breath was 9 years away, but every breath he took for that speech looked and felt like it might be his last. He talked about hoping his skills would return, but everyone knew they wouldn’t.
Like Tyminski puts it in his very sweet homage, All alone inside a crowded room / yet somehow you were always in control.
Here’s where Tony Rice and Bill Evans diverged. They were both possessed by a scary genius. Tony’s lifted him, sustained him, and was kind to him. Evans was tortured by his.
Tony Rice recorded “Nardis” once and nailed it. Evans played the piece hundreds of times, over and over, night after night, gig after gig, and every time it got better and better and more intense, more complex, more radioactive, more alive, more brutally real, until it finally consumed him. It killed him, when the cocaine and heroin couldn’t.
When Tony Rice stared into the abyss of impending death, he saw deliverance, peace, and Jesus. When Evans stared into the abyss, he saw “Nardis” and the lonely addictions that fueled his pursuit of perfection.
Tyminski’s song “One More Time…” is performed on his EP by himself, Sam Bush, co-writer Josh Williams, Todd Phillips, and Jerry Douglas. And, as perfectly polished as it is, it’s not the strongest cut on the record. Neither is his cover of Gordon Lightfoot’s “Ten Degrees” with Dailey & Vincent, a song Tony Rice made a huge statement with in 1975 on “J.D. Crowe and The New South.”
No, the highest accolades go to three duets: 1) Dan Tyminski and Molly Tuttle’s exquisite and loving treatment of Norman Blake’s “Church Street Blues,” a song that fit Tony Rice like a glove; 2) Dan and Billy Strings performing “Where the Soul of Man Never Dies” for the ages; and 3) Dan and Gaven Largent bringing it back to the Earthly delights of “Why You Been Gone So Long.” Through all three, Tony Rice was beaming with the smile that was always so hard to draw out of him. So was Dan.
Those three pieces on this 5-cut record are worth a million bucks a piece.
I saw the Dan Tyminski Band in early July in Kingston TN, in the free Summer Sessions concert series presented by the ORNL Federal Credit Union and the IBMA’s favorite radio station, WDVX in Knoxville. Along with Grace and Jason Davis, Maddie Denton, and Harry Clark, all of whom are Best of Breed on their particular instrumental specialties, Gaven Largent blew my mind when he led the band in “Why You Been Gone So Long” live.
Formerly with Blue Highway and Michael Cleveland’s Flamekeepers, Largent is still slinging fire. His reso guitar style just feels illegal somehow. It’s like the dang guitar has an outlawed ammo magazine hanging off the back side, out of sight. A gifted singer and multi-instrumentalist, Largent is “as bluegrass as they come,” according to Tyminski. And what you hear on “One More Time…” proves it. Tasty ain’t the half of it. Gaven Largent can channel Tony Rice.
Run out and get this record. Is it on vinyl, Dan? Sure hope it is. Otherwise, get it on your favorite non-material medium. But get it.
If you need a big dose of Tony Rice at the height of his dizzying ascendancy, go to YouTube and find “J.D. Crowe and New South / Red Slipper Lounge / Nov 11, 1974” and discover why a tacky bar at a Holiday Inn in Lexington KY during the first year of Gerald Ford’s presidency was the most magnetic music venue in the country.
While you’re doing that, I’m going to throw “Manzanita” on the turntable and listen to it about a dozen times in a row.
See the Dan Tyminski Band if they’re playing anywhere within a hundred miles of you this summer and fall. With all the hyper-talented young bloods surrounding Tyminski on this tour, the question of old dogs and new tricks is in the air, but Tyminski answers it right off the bat. He opens the show with “Constant Sorrow.” That’s right. Get it out of the way first thing. And from that point on, the audience has no idea what’s coming next.
Young bloods don’t know stuff like that. It’s brilliant.